Even though the end of the world didn’t happen as predicted (the Mayans can suck it), 2012 still saw the introduction of several pretty d*mn apocalyptical games that blew the gaming community’s collective minds.
- THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM (Bethesda Softworks)
Although The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in November 2011, we’re still counting it in for the massive amount of growth and sheer amount of content the game has shown in the past one year alone. Bethesda topped the benchmark for all RPGs around with a richly textured, graphically beautiful open-world fantasy game that brings players to the region of Skyrim and sets them right in the middle of a roiling civil war – just as dragons reappear, threatening to bring about the apocalypse.
Bethesda has always been famous for presenting games with great potential for expansion (think the Fallout series), and a vibrant modding community was born soon after the game was published. To date, over 20,000 mods alone have been created, improving an already beautiful game even more in every way, whether it be graphics or gameplay. Certain artistically-inclined gamers have even begun taking beautiful screenshots of the already-detailed world Skyrim provides, after buffing it up with impressive graphics mods that make the shots look real as all hell.
The Skyrim buzz has reached even the non-gaming community, and you’ll probably have seen and heard especially on the interwebz the memes that have risen around the game, arrow-in-the-knee jokes and all. So much so that they’ve become rather annoying, so we’ll not repeat them here (for fear of fire).
- MASS EFFECT 3 (Bioware)
Never mind the highly controversial “free-choice” ending that didn’t really give players much of a choice after all, Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 was one of the most spectacular examples of videogame storytelling. It wraps up the journey started by protagonist Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 1 as players deal with the apocalyptical Reapers, a robotic AI-based race that has finally come out of dark space to cleanse the entire galaxy of organic life.
Cinematics and gameplay combine very well in this game, without the former overwhelming the latter like in other games (we’re looking at you, Metal Gear Solid). The story spreads out the entire war over multiple extremely detailed story arcs as Shepard works to unite the galaxy against their common enemy — recruiting the turians, curing the krogan genophage, saving the quarian homeworld, and taking down human supremacist faction Cerberus.
Mass Effect 3 was simply a glorious end to an epic trilogy, a game full of action (and a spanking story tie-in multiplayer mode), drama and even tear-jerking moments as loose ends were wrapped, threats were disabled and the galaxy was slowly but surely united against a common enemy.
- DISHONORED (Arkane Studios)
Dishonored, released by Arkane Studios last October in conjunction with Bethesda, was another milestone in gaming history especially as far as the stealth-action genre is concerned.
A single-player first-person game, Dishonored sets players as protagonist Corvo Attano, assassin and bodyguard to the Empress in the fictional industrial world of Dunwall. Players are forced to run for their lives as Corvo becomes embroiled in a large political scheme that begins with the murder of the Empress and ends – depending on your actions throughout the game – with a bloodbath or a generally happy ending.
There’s a reason Dishonored won the 2012 Spike Video Game award for Best Action-Adventure game. Actually, more than one. The first is the detailed world players are thrust into even as they play through this generally fast-paced game in missions where they are instructed to dispose of given targets (like Hitman) in whatever means necessary, whether by killing them or through peaceful means (not like Hitman). Players can choose to go straight to their goal and kill the heck out of their targets, or take a leisurely path through each mission to discover the layers of backstory hidden beneath and even alternate routes to the mission’s end.
One could say that even the mission layouts are pieces of art in themselves, as the story is told not just through the main plot but also through the set-piece environment – the dark shadows, the industrial-revolution styled architecture, the weeping sickly, the foreboding skies, and so on.
The second reason is the gameplay itself. Players can go through the game either through the sneaky, use-the-shadows route, or through simply blowing enemies away with your powers of destruction (whooshwhirlwind!). Gameplay is strongly tied in with plot here as each mission is affected by your actions in the previous, whether you chose the peaceful route or the violent one.
Either way, one can’t help but be mesmerized both by the gameplay and the stunning artwork evident in the game’s design.
- BIOSHOCK INFINITE (Irrational Games)
Ken Levine is an evil, evil person.
If you’ve finished the game (without once referring to spoilers), you’ll have cursed Ken Levine and his demonic team of game writers at least once or twice throughout the playthrough. Without giving too much away, the convoluted plot is a hell of a tearjerker that will make you question every move you make.
Third in the massively popular Bioshock series, Bioshock Infinite brings players this time to the floating city of Columbia and puts them in the shoes of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt. Set against the backdrop of 1912 America, the game tasks you with the retrieval of a young woman named Elizabeth Comstock who has been held there for most of her life. The game tells you little about what is going on at the start, and the plot is advanced and revealed slowly and tantalizingly in such a way as to put players in a state of both riveted rapture/wanting to tear your damn hair out by the handful. All we can say is be prepared to challenge your basic understanding of religion and racism, AND to twist your understanding of popular quantum-physics-fiction in new and highly inventive/aggravating ways. Videogame plots nowadays can’t be just “see bad guy kill”, they also have to be complex social commentaries. What can we say, we love it.
A first-person shooter, the game is highly similar to Dishonored in its spectacularly detailed set pieces. You run around shooting fiendish enemies and throwing your vigor-potion-powered abilities, the bloody violence a stark contrast to your bright, joyous surroundings. Of course, some argue that All of this comes together to provide spectacular storytelling that tells — quite possibly — the story of the year.
Yes, the plot is nail-bitingly aggravating. But that is in absolutely no way a minus-point, especially with the solid gameplay, beautiful set pieces, and topnotch voice acting. Highly immersive. Highly recommended.